Psychological Mechanisms of Skewed Decision Making Across Adulthood

  • Colleen Frank, UT Dallas
  • Kendra Seaman, UT Dallas
  • Gregory Samanez-Larkin, Duke University
  • Derek Isaacowitz, Northeastern University

Each year, 1 out of every 18 older adults is the victim of financial fraud, resulting in estimated losses of $37 billion. These older adults are likely targeted because of this age group’s growing size, affluence, and power. Thus, it is important to understand why older adults sometimes make decisions that are different than younger adults because these age-related differences in decision making have enormous social and economic consequences. Our overall goal is to identify the psychological mechanisms that underlie age differences in risky decision making over the adult life span. This mechanistic focus will generate critical insight about aging and decision making that will guide the development of interventions to improve decision strategies in vulnerable older adults. This project will also seek to increase financial literacy in the general public by developing accessible educational materials appropriate for the adult general public.

This study is funded by NSF.

Do Age Differences in Associative Learning and Stimulus Generalization Lead to Age Differences in Trust?

• Brittany Cassidy, UNC-Greensboro
• Kendra Seaman, UT Dallas
• Jessica Cooper, Emory University
• Daisy Burr, Duke University
• Alex Christensen, UNC-Greensboro

When meeting others, people make quick decisions on whether to trust people or not that affect decision-making and that pose serious consequences for physical, interpersonal, and financial well-being. However, older adults exhibit excessive trust relative to younger adults and this excessive trust leaves older adults particularly such serious consequences, including financial fraud. One explanation for their excessive trust is that older adults may learn to trust differently than do younger adults. The study adopts an interdisciplinary approach to examine this possibility at both the behavioral and neural levels.

This study is funded by SRNDNA. OSF preregistration includes details about the hypotheses and study design.

The effect of differential delay on time preferences across adulthood

• Shelby Leverett, UT Dallas
• Christpher (Dominic) Garza, UT Dallas
• Kendra Seaman, UT Dallas

Many decisions involve considering a smaller sooner option and a larger later option. In these situations, people tend to devalue the later option, which is known as temporal discounting. Prior research has shown mixed age effects, with some studies suggesting that older adults discount more than young adults and other studies showing the opposite pattern. We posit that one reason for these heterogeneous results is that prior studies have used a mixture of time delays. We predict that older adults may discount more than younger adults, but only for longer time delays due to older adults’ greater uncertainty about the distant future.

OSF preregistration includes details about the study design, hypotheses, and analysis code.